Family Guide to Ha’apai
Some 62 virtually untouched islands await in the central island group of Tonga. Ha’apai is home to warm and clear water, vibrant culture and some interesting historical sites. For families, a visit here can be utterly relaxing with a serious amount of beach time on some of the best beaches in Tonga, as well as educational and active through a range of exciting experiences. Head out on the water with your kayak and snorkel gear, get the kids involved in making Tongan crafts, check out some of the interesting historical sites around the island and the list goes on! We’ll go through all of it and more in the guide to Ha’apai for families.
10 Things to Do in Ha’apai with Kids
- Watch whales on a whale watching tour
- Check out the tropical fish by snorkelling from your resort
- Go on a family mission in a kayak or stand-up paddleboard
- Learn how to make your own woven basket with the local villagers
- Explore the islands on horseback
- Head out on a family fishing trip
- Do some reef walking
- Build sandcastles on the beach
- Check out some of the historical sites
- Drink from a coconut
For more details on each experience, see the 10 Things To Do in Ha’apai with Kids.
How to Get to Ha’apai
With most families arriving in Tonga through Tongatapu, the easiest way to get to Ha’apai is by taking a plane or the passenger ferry from Tongatapu. Flights are advised for ease of travel and transport during the day. Most ferry crossings are throughout the night, which generally makes for grumpy kids.
Ha’apai by Plane
Flights go back and forth between Tongatapu and Ha’apai two to three times a day, except for Sundays. Flights are from the domestic terminal in Fua’amotu Airport on Tongatapu and land at Pilolevu Airport, 3km north of the main town of Ha’apai, Pangai. Flights last approximately 50 minutes and offer one of the quickest and often most convenient way to get between the island. Find out more in Where Can You Fly to in Tonga?
Ha’apai by Ferry
Offering a cheaper alternative to get to Ha’apai, the ferries departing from Queen Salote Wharf in Nuku’alofa are worth considering. The MV Tongiaki and the MV ‘Otuanga’ofa stops at several destinations in Ha’apai on its weekday run between Tongatapu and Vava’u. The ferries stop at Nomuka, Ha’afeva and Taua’ahau Wharf in Pangai. Travel times to Ha’apai from Tongatapu with the fast catamaran is approximately 5h30mins with the MV Tongiaki and up to 8 hours on the MV ‘Otuanga’ofa. Up-to-date schedules can be found at the Nuku’alofa Visitor Centre, but it’s also advised to call the day ahead of departure, as schedules change.
Once you arrive at the wharf or airport in Pangai, accommodation providers will offer transfers to their resorts/guest houses if arranged prior to arrival. Some accommodations will arrange both boat and land transport.
For more information on getting to and around the islands, see 5 Ways to Get to Ha’apai.
Water Activities for Families
You didn’t come all the way to the tropics to spend all of your time on land. Truly, most of the action is out on the water which is teeming with life and even home to Humpback Whales between July and October. Here are just some family-friendly ways to spend some time on the water…
Snorkelling in Ha’apai
Many of Ha’apai’s resorts offer fantastic snorkelling straight from the beach, such as at Fanifo Lofa, Serenity Beaches Resort and Matafonua Lodge. The accommodations offer free use of snorkelling gear to explore the coral bommies and tropical fish in Ha’apai’s crystal clear waters. Matafonua has its own “House Reef” in a shallow lagoon ideal for safe swimming with the kids, whereas Fanifo Lofa has beautiful snorkelling right by the beach.
Kayaking & Stand-Up Paddleboarding
Another way to get out on the water with the little ones is by hiring a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard. Kids love learning to paddle across the tranquil waters, looking out for fish or even manta rays seen through the clear water, while younger kids can couple up with mum or dad easily on a paddleboard or kayak. Kayak hire is a staple at most resorts in Ha’apai, while paddleboarding is available at Fanifo Lofa and Matafonua Lodge.
Fishing, whale watching, sailing and more can be enjoyed around Ha’apai, so learn more about water activities with the kids in the 10 Things To Do in Ha’apai with Kids.
Land Activities for Families
If you do manage to pull your kids away from the water, which, trust us, is a challenge, then there are some fantastic land experience to enjoy as a family.
Watch the smiles on your little ones’ faces as they experience Ha’apai on horseback! Horses are still used on the islands as a form of transport, so your resort finding a horse riding tour for you is hardly an issue. Matafonua Lodge works with local communities to offer horse riding through tropical forest, along the beach and even with its hooves in the ocean. What’s more, the experience is done “island style” with no saddle!
Learn Traditional Tongan Arts and Crafts
Looking for something educational to do with the kids? Don’t miss the opportunity to do Tongan crafts, such as weaving and tapa-making! Some of the Ha’apai resorts offer guests the opportunity to have a hand-on experience, weaving baskets or fans. While Fanifo Lofa can teach you at the resort, Matafonua Lodge offers cultural day trips to a nearby village where you’ll see handicraft demonstrations, listen to beautiful singing from the local school children, and indulge in an island feast.